The Nigerian Navy has said its operatives intercepted a large metallic barge transporting about 120,000 litres of crude oil suspected to be stolen from pipelines in Elem-Kalabari community in Akuku-Toru local government area of Rivers State.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral James Oluwole, who announced the seizure while inspecting the barge yesterday, said the barge was intercepted in the early hours of Wednesday by troops manning its house boat in the area.
Oluwole said, “Naval troops manning our maritime security stations (house boat) on Wednesday around 2:00a.m, intercepted and impounded a metallic barge laden with about 120,000 litres of crude oil suspected to be stolen.
“Troops were unable to arrest crew members on board the barge as they fled the scene on sighting advancing naval gunboats. This interception is a testament to success of our choke point strategy which involves positioning of troops on flash points for quick response to situations.
“This strategy and other security measures recently put in place curtailed spate of attacks on oil and gas installations, piracy and other criminality on our maritime environment.”
He stated that more house boats and other military hardware would be deployed to ensure drastic reduction of oil theft, especially on the Eastern Naval Command (ENC) area of responsibility.
The FOC said four house boats had already been deployed with three positioned under the Central Naval Command Headquarters in Bayelsa.
Oluwole said that a total of five house boats had so far been deployed within the command’s domain.
He said one of the house boats had been deployed to the ENC which enabled troops to identify routes used by illegal oil thieves to transport stolen petroleum products from the creeks.
Also speaking, the Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder Port Harcourt, Commodore Kennedy Egbuchulam, said that troops were specially trained to reduce rising spate of attacks on oil and gas installations.
Egbuchulam, whose troops intercepted the barge, said that advanced surveillance and tracking systems had been positioned to ensure effective coverage of the creeks and waterways.
He said, “Aside the house boats, gunboats in their numbers patrol the areas day and night using sophisticated surveillance system to spot illegalities on our maritime environment.
“Without the surveillance system, it would have been near impossible to spot the barge as it was highly disguised due to the darkness of the night.”